I remember penning a similar article years ago, and while I’m still impressed with those words, I believe 4 years of experience can make it even better than it was. Here’s to the Best Man You can Be, today. (This one’s for you Oye 😉 )
My brothers, once again, we have a problem. And I need to address it before we become the fathers that our friends, family, wives and children will love to hate. I happen to believe that every man is called to be a Gentleman.
In the tradition of Slim Shady, let me first ask all the real Gentlemen to please stand up – wait! Not so fast! So you say you’re a Gentleman? Prove it.
Coming straight to the point, let me emphatically state: It’s not because of your Pierre Cardin long-sleeved shirts, your Trezeguet watch, your Cole Haan loafers or your Emporio Armani jacket that you gain membership to this Fraternity.
It’s definitely not because of your maxed out KLM/Emirates Frequent Flyer card either. And let’s not get on the case of your presumed freshness! It’s not the outside that counts my man: it’s what’s inside you.
Now, genetics is inside you, true, but sadly genetics still doesn’t meet the cut for acceptance into this exclusive Fraternity: you cannot be born into this Club! You cannot blame genetics, or call upon it to vouch for you in this case.
To start clarifying matters, allow me to attempt to describe the Gentleman in one word: Awareness.
The Gentleman is aware he’s powerful. Nature made him male and he’s aware that it entails far much more than a characteristic manner of micturition and procreation! He’s naturally strong and at times may be tempted to rely on his physical prowess to settle his problems for him, but he remembers that brains beats brawn any day. He’s not going to take the easy way out involving his fists just so he can be free of a problem. Because of this he knows to use extra care when dealing with someone less strong than him. Lay his hands on a woman??! Are you insane?! Even the mere thought is repulsive to him! He uses his strength to protect, not to oppress. He knows there’s a definite time to be powerful and he will be powerful when the moment arises, but for that purpose alone – and even then, with compassion & mercy.
The Gentleman is aware he can easily be swayed by his Ego – either way. He knows how he wants things to be and has felt how irritating it gets when someone messes up his plans, but he knows it’s never a one-man show: they very well could have a point contrary to his. He, therefore, doesn’t wait for someone to question his motives but does so himself first. And since he won’t lie to himself, the truth comes out more often than not and he does something about it. He’s, therefore, aware every step of the way whose agenda he’s really pushing and what to do about it. He is never too big to apologise when he’s wrong (and sometimes even when he isn’t!)
A Gentleman is aware he doesn’t have all the answers and so listens to advice…good advice. He accepted a long time ago that he was not infallible and needs good friends to help him do what is right, especially when his naturally stubborn nature kicks into action, blinding him to the truth. He alienates no one but doesn’t allow just any belief or principle to traipse across his mindscape without vetting. He’s not the kind to go along with the crowd, if he does, it’s because they’re just going his way.
A Gentleman is aware of the true value of a heart placed into his hands. He loves truly. He doesn’t think of love as a crutch or a tool as other men might, causing them to ‘act up’ to prove they’re not ‘slaves’ to its conditions, or a means to get something they want. He doesn’t use the love others have for him to enslave them to his will or to hurt them. The only ‘playing’ he does is with a game console, not people’s hearts! He meets those he loves halfway and beyond, doing nothing for them at any price.
A Gentleman is gentle. He’s never loud or boisterous, always wanting to be the one whose voice is heard above the rest. He’s learnt how to speak wisdom in the simplest of manners so it can be heard by all, above the loud voices of his peers. He lets you have your way most of the time, not because he doesn’t want to go first, but because he knows there’ll be enough for us all whether he’s at the front or the back of the line – not because he’s intimidated by you.
A Gentleman knows how to separate business from pleasure. And he prioritises! He knows his ultimate aim and prepares for it, not waiting for duty to sneak up on him to find him unprepared and wanting. He does not procrastinate. He always has a plan for success and failure. He knows when to play, how to play and who to play with. He knows which losses and which victories matter most and plans to receive them well. He plays so well that when the time for work arrives, he embraces it wholly, never feeling cheated.
A Gentleman is responsible. He knows what it means to have people depend on him and values their trust so much that he will do his best every time to fulfil his promises. You can count on him. ’Word is bond’, means more to him than a slogan semi-literate boys posing as men say when they bump fists. Once he says ‘I’ll be there’, it becomes a matter for hell or high water to stop him. He’s spent so much of his time investing in his promises that they’re now worth so much that if you could buy shares in it, gold would tank within a day of trading! His word is iron-clad.
A Gentleman is clean! Yes, he knows how to keep himself neat and presentable. He doesn’t hide behind Chinua Achebe’s assertion (of Okonkwo) that “…a man must be hugely built and ugly…” to look the part of a hoodlum! He believes he owes it to himself and all the people he comes into contact with to leave a fresh, clean impression behind, literally and otherwise! NO B.O.!!!
And because first impressions last longest, let me advise all guys wishing to be admitted into this august Fraternity to either enlist the aid of a medical professional or a tailor to determine the actual position of their waists! Belts were not invented to keep your trousers and jeans from sliding off your thighs! Don’t get me wrong, a Gentleman does not have a stick up his you-know-where. He just believes in dressing properly as if prepared to bump into his prospective (or actual) in-laws at any time. We’re grown men now and there’s nothing to be gained from living the life (and dressing the part!) of a hustler – act your age. Oh, and the women told me to tell you that they like real men who know what they’re about, not boys in disguise. You’ve been told.
A Gentleman knows his part to play at each stage of his life and embraces it readily. Son, brother, student, professional, leader, husband, breadwinner, father, grandfather, elder – come as they may , he is willing to apply all his God-given attributes and wisdom to excel no matter the mantle placed on his shoulders by chance or design.
And just like the Lady, he knows he’s a magnificent work-in-progress. He will make mistakes, just like his peers, but what separates him from them every time is his willingness to learn from them, and his aversion to repeating them.
I think most important of all; a Gentleman is who he is, for himself. He doesn’t put all these restrictions on himself so he can be acknowledged by others. He has realised that everything he does anything for other people, he is – in the end – the final beneficiary.
Even if he gets no kudos for his efforts, he’ll still be an exemplary man.
What he is aware of most of all, probably, is that to be a Man is not easy.